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Sailing the Digital Waves: Breakbulk Insights 2023

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Breakbulk America Conference 2023 set sail, steering the maritime and logistics industry toward the uncharted waters of digitalization. Amidst the buzz of hopeful opportunities, a panel discussion titled “The Promise and the Pitfalls of Digitalization” took center stage, featuring industry leaders sharing insights on the transformative journey ahead.

Digital Enthusiasm Amid Challenges

Mike Bhaskaran, the digital technology COO at DP World, kicked off the event with optimism, foreseeing a bright 2024 marked by new markets and opportunities, with a keen eye on Africa and the GCC region. Yet, the subsequent panel, “Progress in the Digitalization of Breakbulk: Expectation vs Reality,” led by Bill Keyes from Fluor, delved into the hurdles that cast shadows on this optimistic horizon.


Nautical Challenges: Visibility and Communication

Jessica Bedoya, logistics manager for Newmont, a mining company, shed light on the struggles of working with suppliers in remote areas lacking access to advanced systems. The discussion pivoted around solving the visibility problem in such contexts, emphasizing the need for solutions to bridge the digital divide.


Susan Evans, VP of customer solutions at Logiswift, underlined a digital divide within the industry. Despite a shift to digital platforms, reliance on traditional communication like emails persisted. The absence of digitalization champions meant that the full potential of technology remained largely untapped.

Navigating Expectations in Turbulent Waters


Payne Fischer, leading industrial projects at Kuehne + Nagel, drew attention to the disparity between end-users’ expectations, especially project managers, and the industry’s current reality, drawing parallels to Amazon-style tracking. Moderator Bill Keyes chimed in, emphasizing the industry’s uniqueness and the absence of standardized platforms akin to Amazon’s.

Digitalization’s Evolution Amid a Stormy Pandemic


The conversation also veered toward the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which acted as a catalyst for improved communication and digital systems. Fischer highlighted the shift to virtual meetings, demanding increased flexibility. Overcoming the fear of technology as a job replacement emerged as the initial step toward embracing the potential enhancements offered by digital tools.

Philip Ovanessians, logistics director at Koch Industries’ Logistics Group, KBX, stressed the success of systems that seamlessly integrate with others. While acknowledging AI’s potential in the capital projects industry, he tempered expectations, suggesting that its full benefits might take some years to unfold.

From Disruption to Triumph: Personal Digital Tales

Concluding the session, Ovanessians shared a personal anecdote of triumph amidst the pandemic. Digital tools not only facilitated remote work but enabled unconventional hours, showcasing technology’s transformative potential in overcoming unexpected obstacles.

As the maritime and logistics industry sets sail into the digital future, the Breakbulk America Conference 2023 offered a compass, navigating both the promises and challenges of this transformative journey.

Source: Luke King, Breakbulk

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